What does a Garden Gnome do when she is not gardening, in the kitchen or doing genealogy? Well the answer might just surprise you so read the entries to find out more. This blog focuses on everything we do to make our house a home. There will be a strong emphasis on home energy efficiency and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. At the same time there will also be crafts, knitting and crocheting projects along with any other little tips we do to create that down to earth, I want to be here home. Please enjoy your visit :)

Friday, January 12, 2007

Where is our electricity going?

Reducing energy consumption is certainly a concern for most people whether as an environmental concern, financial concern or combination of both. It is easy to reduce electricity by replacing old appliances with Energy Star rated, shutting off lights, using CFLs and using LED computer monitors because they are the things most discussed. However our homes are filled with a multitude of small energy using devices that while we know they use electricity we think nothing of it.

I walked though our house just to see how many small energy using devices we had. What I found were:

  • two appliance clocks
  • three power bars
  • two lighted light switches
  • four electronic rodent chasers
  • two printers on stand-by
  • two laptops on chargers
  • PDA on charger
  • furnace igniter
  • carbon monoxide detector
  • security system
  • three phone adapters
  • strand of rope lighting
  • home automation system
  • humidifier adapter
  • electronic air cleaner
  • programmable thermostat
  • clock radio
This is a small list compared to many households still it is larger than I thought it would be. Obviously some things like the printer can be turned off when not needed but other things cannot be turned off. Each of these consume only a small amount of electricity but a watt is a watt. Off is better than on, or is it?

Most households have appliances that operate on small standby power resulting in energy loss when the appliance is turned off. This is known as phantom energy loss and can really add up in terms of electricity consumption! These appliances include VCR's, televisions, personal computers, satellite decoders, digital converters, cable boxes, and video game boxes. Energy Solutions Alberta found that the typical 25-inch television uses 4.5 watts on standby. They also found that VCRs were on of the worst for phantom energy loss by using only 5% of their total energy for recording and playing videos! The worst offenders are the set-top box according to them. These are appliances like cable boxes, video game boxes and satellite decoders and they "use almost as much energy off as on". They indicate that an average satellite decoder uses 130 kWh of power annually so at 10¢ per kWh that is a big chunk of money! But that cost sounds too high as our total electricity per kWh is 5.5¢ plus a little over that amount again in service charges as taxes. So it works out to a little over 11¢ per kWh total but we only paid $1259.62 total costs last year in electricity.

On that note, I decide to do another walk-through and list the phantom energy users we have. These are:
  • two satellite decoders
  • 34-inch television (Energy Star rated)
  • 14"-inch television
  • DVD player
  • VCR
  • stereo receiver
  • 17" iMac (Energy Star rated)
We are paying a price for entertainment and communication! The obvious solution is to simply eliminate these appliances or at the very least unplug them when they are not in use. Another alternative is to buy energy efficient replacements. We really can't complain about our electric bills considering we are averaging just over $100 per month but I still look for ways to lower it. Like many others we don't want to give up our toys so we are looking for more efficient ways to use them. We noticed two drops in our electricity use this year. In August we replace our near ancient computer with an energy efficient iMac. I was surprised to see a noticeable difference on the next electric bill. Then in October we replaced our 20 something refrigerator with an energy efficient model resulting in another noticeable decrease on the next electric bills.

So now we know where our electricity costs are goint we can continue reducing by eliminating or replacing certain electric devices. Our goals this year are to replace our top loading washer with a front loading one that will save both water and electricity, and replace the old freezer in the garage. One suggestion we had for the freezer was to watch for the smaller freezers to go on sale and buy two. That way we would have the space of a large freezer but only have both plugged in during large influxes of food. Apparently this is a growing trend and to me makes sense to have one running all the time and the other one used only when needed. I want to do a bit more research on this idea.

Garden Gnome
© 2007
Image courtesy of Hassle Free Clipart